Friday, May 12, 2017

No Man's Land - Book Review

From the cover :

"Adam Raine is a boy cursed by misfortune. His impoverished childhood in turn-of-the-century London comes to a sudden and tragic end when his mother is killed in a workers' protest march. His father, Daniel, is barely able to cope with the loss. But a job offer in the coal mining town of Scarsdale presents one last chance, so father and son head north. The relocation is hard on Adam: the local boys prove difficult to befriend, and he never quite fits in. Meanwhile tensions between the miners and their employer, Sir John Scarsdale, escalate, and finally explode with terrible consequences.
     In the aftermath, Adam's fate shifts once again, and he finds himself drawn into the opulent Scarsdale family home where he makes an enemy of Sir John's son, Brice, who subjects Adam to a succession of petty cruelties for daring to step above his station. However, Adam finds consolation in the company of Miriam, the local parson's beautiful daughter with whom he falls in love. When they become engaged and Adam wins a scholarship to Oxford, he starts to feel that his life is finally coming together—until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart.
     From the slums of London to the riches of an Edwardian country house; from the hot, dark seams of a Yorkshire coal mine to the exposed terrors of the trenches in France; Adam's journey from boy to man is set against the backdrop of a society violently entering the modern world."

My thoughts :

I read No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien while I was in the middle of packing and cleaning for our move. Because of that it took me a month to read. This isn't an indication of how much I enjoyed it however. I was quite fascinated by the story of Adam Raine and felt compelled to keep reading each night even though I was exhausted.

Loosely based on his grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien's life, Simon weaves Adam's story into the history of the period. I was mesmerized as Simon's compelling words and story brought Adam's life, the history and the settings into sharp, rich detail before my eyes. It was a brutal time and Simon doesn't shy away from placing the reader right in the middle of the savageness and revolting images of trench battle in World War I or the grim realties of the miners' hazardous decent into the darkness of the mines. The novel and the writing are at their best in these moments.

The war changed people and realistically, the characters in No Man's Land are affected by the war. It was intriguing to watch as the love story between Adam and Miriam evolved from their times as youngsters to adults. They had suffered and grown and whose lives have been altered.

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien is an invaluable look into the history and an engrossing Dickensian story of a young man's life.

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien is published by Nan A. Talese and released on January 24, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Unseen Angel - Book Review

An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker wasn't my type of book. I surprised myself by even agreeing to be on the blog tour. Of course, I knew what had happened at Sandy Hook that horrible day. What mother who sends her children off to school doesn't hold that fear in her heart? The elementary school that my children attended had our own scare last fall. Thankfully, no one was injured and the perpetrator was apprehended after a standoff with police. But I saw the fear in the eyes of my neighbors and I witnessed children who are still anxious and worried. And so I really didn't want to read the book about a tiny, innocent child being murdered in her school.

I picked up An Unseen Angel one night while I was still living at my in-law's home in limbo between moves. I was emotional and lonely and suffering from insomnia. I figured I'd give it a try. Read a few chapters--enough to hopefully put me to sleep. But I was surprised. Alissa Parker's writing is so pure and so honest and so emotional that I read the entire book that night.

This grieving mother introduces the world to her beautiful daughter who was violently taken so soon and then shares her journey along the road of healing. She offers so much faith and hope. I was genuinely moved by her story.

Alissa Parker and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She believes, as I do, that life continues after death and that families can be together forever--that Emilie, though no longer living on earth, is still her daughter and will always be her daughter. Those familial bonds cannot be severed even by such an evil, violent act. In her book, Alissa tells of several precious moments that allowed her to gain an even stronger testimony of this truth

Parker also writes of her efforts to make other children safer in the future and her desire and need to forgive. An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker is heart breaking and emotional. It is also glorious and strengthening. I highly recommend it.

An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker is published by Ensign Peak and released on April 4, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinion. No compensation was received**

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean - Book Review

From the cover :

"February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French RĂ©sistance spy.
Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMSQueen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...
Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings."

My thoughts :

I don't think I read the back cover very well because I wasn't quite expecting the mystical and supernatural aspect of A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner. Last year, I read GI Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi that tells the true stories of several European women who married American soldiers and emigrated to American after the war. I started reading A Bridge Across the Ocean expecting a fictionalized version of that. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoy a good ghost story.

Meissner's writing is lovely and engaging and I read the story of Annaliese and Simone very quickly. Though she is simultaneously telling the stories of several women, Meissner balances the stories and makes the transitions clear. The characters are imperfect women who have suffered so much at the hands of a brutal war and vicious people. Their hope for a better, safer, happier future is palpable within the pages and it is easy to root for them to achieve their dreams.

While far from being a spooky ghost story, A Bridge Across the Ocean does employ the other-worldly elements that set it apart from a typical historical fiction novel. It's fun and unconventional and I liked it. 

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is published by Berkley and released on March 14, 2017. It is also a She Reads Spring 2017 Selection.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinion. No compensation was received.**